Belfast Telegraph

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton rejects probe into Ulster Bank and RBS 'dash for cash' claims

By John Mulgrew

The Economy Minister has said he is "deeply disappointed" about allegations that Ulster Bank and parent firm RBS secretly tried to profit from struggling businesses.

But Simon Hamilton poured cold water on calls for a probe into Ulster Bank's activities, saying it was a matter for Westminster.

"As banking is a reserved matter any investigation would be led by Her Majesty's Government in the first instance," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I am currently holding a series of meetings with all the Northern Ireland banks, including Ulster Bank, to highlight the importance of supporting business development and growth.

"I would be deeply disappointed if the alleged practices were indeed taking place. It is important that the facts are established."

Ulster Bank's parent company set up its so-called global restructuring group (GRG) across the UK as a recovery unit to help customers in difficulty due to the collapse in the property market.

But documents leaked to the BBC and Buzzfeed accuse RBS of exploiting some vulnerable business customers after the crash in a so-called "dash for cash".

Conor Devine of property advice firm GDP Partnership, which has dealt with dozens of customers involved in the GRG, has called on the Executive to probe the revelations.

"I think this is something the Executive should be looking at. It's too important for people in Northern Ireland," he said.

"They should be looking at companies in Northern Ireland to see who was affected."

RBS said: "In the aftermath of the financial crisis, we did not always meet our own high standards and we let some of our SME customers down. In regard to the wider allegations raised, we have found no evidence that the bank either inappropriately targeted such businesses to transfer them to GRG or drove them to insolvency."

Belfast Telegraph

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